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Jackson Edwards

The Modern Constitution

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

Imagine a roomful of politicians with disparate beliefs, tasked with creating a document to govern an entirely new country. In 1787, America’s founding fathers faced this seemingly impossible challenge. Countless debates, numerous committees, and five months later, the newly formed United States of America had the Constitution, the guiding document for our nation and the supreme law of the land. In the process of creating the Constitution, every word was deliberately calculated—the founders sought to create a document that protected America from humanity’s worst impulses. Yet, when reading the Constitution, perhaps the most notable aspect of its prose is its lack of specificity in many places. The preamble includes phrases such as “general welfare,”  an assertion of “establish[ing] justice,” and a declaration of “secur[ing] the Blessings of Liberty for ourselves and our Posterity,”   Furthermore, the Bill of Rights enumerated a list of rights without specifying the extent (or lack thereof) of those rights. Many cite this vagueness as a flaw. Counterintuitively, the ambiguity of the Constitution actually serves as its greatest strength—allowing for each generation to adapt it to its needs, as the Founders intended. Thus, the Founders effectively created a “living” Constitution through their use of ambiguous diction.

Nearly a quarter of a millennium later, our Constitution feels as if it’s being stretched nearly to its limits. On the left, many call for radical changes to our political system—including “abolishing the Senate” and electoral college. Meanwhile, on the right, the so-called “Constitutional Conservatives” are seeking to exploit Article V of the Constitution to trigger a Constitutional Convention, which would theoretically allow the quick implementation of “an amendment to the Constitution requiring Congress to balance its budget” and potentially other new amendments. As a matter of fact, 28 out of the needed 34 states have already called for a convention. Some, such as The Atlantic’s Jeremi Suri, suggest scaling-back the role of the Presidency to adapt to today’s multifaceted challenges. In this age of uncertainty for the viability and sustainability of our Constitution, Americans should not forget that the United States has been built upon the premise of our Constitution—and impulsively abandoning it to find quick fixes to a few of today’s political issues would be unthinkably short-sighted.

First, the Constitution must be established as deliberately written vaguely in order to ensure that the Constitution would be able to fit the needs of each generation. Second, historical rulings and evolving interpretations of the Constitution must be shown to support a living Constitution. Third, the US must identify how the Constitution can be interpreted today to address the challenges of the 21st Century.

The first aspect I will examine is the Constitution’s intentional ambiguity. The first—and perhaps most compelling—piece of evidence supporting the Constitution’s deliberate vagueness is the ongoing lively debate concerning its meaning. From Supreme Court Justices to politicians to lawyer to citizens, nearly every person has some way of interpreting the Constitution—and the range of interpretations are a testament to its ambiguity. For instance, Ruth Bader Ginsburg practices a philosophy that embraces the Constitution as a “living” document—one which adapts with the needs of the society. Others, most prominently the late Justice Scalia, practice textualism or originalism—which interpret the Constitution in modern-day as it would have been interpreted in the 1700s. In fact, Scalia called the Constitution is “dead, dead, dead” — refuting the notion of a living Constitution. Beyond just the disparity in philosophies, word choices like “general,” “well-regulated,” “liberty,” and “justice” are intentionally not clearly defined—leaving its meaning up to interpretation.  

However, to evaluate Scalia’s philosophy on his own terms, perhaps the best people to consult would be the Founders themselves. Thomas Jefferson proposed that the Constitution be redrafted with each generation to ensure that it suited the needs of the changing society. Moreover, Alexander Hamilton, Jefferson’s famous rival, also argued when referencing the Constitution that he never expects to see “perfect work from imperfect man.” That being said, other Founders argued for a more “dead” Constitution; James Madison, for instance, claimed, “The important distinction so well understood in America, between a Constitution established by the people and unalterable by the government, and a law established by the government and alterable by the government, seems to have been little understood and less observed in any other country.” Evidently, even the Founders struggled with how the Constitution should be interpreted. Yet, the unavoidable fact that the Constitution was written in such abstract terms—“well-regulated,” “general welfare,” and “establish justice” (to name a few)—implies that the Founders did indeed intend for the Constitution’s meaning to evolve to face the issues facing each generation.  

Secondly, I will consider the changing historical interpretations of the Constitution within our body politic. History—quite irrefutably—seems to support the interpretation of a living Constitution. For, in the original draft of the Constitution, African-Americans were considered “”three fifths of” white people. From an Originalist perspective, the Constitution supports the degradation of non-white people. However, through the lens of a living Constitution, Americans can recognize—and work to account for—the dark chapters of its history without remaining inextricably connected to overtly racist policies. A recent Pew Research poll found that 50% of Americans believe that the Supreme Court should interpret the Constitution’s meaning in light of its current meaning, while only 45% argued that it should be interpreted as it was originally written. For our Constitution to remain non-racist and viable, we must consider it in the context of modern society and contemporary issues.

Simultaneously, we must accredit the Constitution—identified in The Atlantic’s “How American Politics Went Insane” as the “DNA” of our country—with the success of America. The US is the wealthiest country in the history of the world, in no small part due to our Constitution.  As Ruth Bader Ginsburg recognizes, America has “the oldest written constitution still in force in the world.” The Constitution has immortalized America’s central values—forcing Americans to compromise to compromise so that “the few could not oppress the many, and the many could not oppress the few.” The Atlantic’s “How American Politics Went Insane” also supports this interpretation, arguing that the vagueness of the Constitution catalyzed the creation of vessels such as “state and national party committees, county party chairs, congressional subcommittees, leadership pacs, convention delegates, bundlers, and countless more” in order to execute the vision of the Constitution. To continue the scientific analogy, these “middlemen” were “RNA” to the Constitution’s DNA. Certainly, as arguably the oldest democracy in the world, America has its Constitution to thank for its comparatively unwavering adherence to democratic principles. Yet, the Constitution was designed to create gridlock if politicians “refuse to compromise.” In President George Washington’s farewell address, he warned against such partisanship, well-aware of the risk of devastating political gridlock as a result of such partisanship. Today, the tribalism that plagues contemporary politics—combined with attempts to subvert democratic processes to maintain power—threaten the sanctity of the Constitution. Essentially, these middlemen have began subverting—not supporting—the Constitution. In other words, the “RNA” that once helped realize the Constitution’s vision has grown defective—largely from this notion of Originalism. Textualists—both legislators and judges—often use the antiquated meanings of the Constitution to prevent progressive policies from passing. Even in seminal cases such as Brown v. Board of Education, court precedent was less emphasized in the decision than social science revelations. Decisions like that one underscore the vitality of using a living Constitution to account for the flaws of—as Hamilton famously said—“imperfect men.”           Finally, I will consider how the Constitution’s values have shaped the success of the US. Our Constitution has guided the US to a position of great power and wealth; coupled with a shrewd interpretation of the Constitution, that power and wealth can help lead the world towards solutions to challenges of the 21st Century. However, rather than just discarding the Constitution that has guided our nation for almost 250 years, we must put to rest the notion that the Constitution must be interpreted as the Founders intended—their intent was to ensure wealthy white men exclusively controlled the government.  If you believe that our government should function that way, then you absolutely can preach the necessity of Originalism. However, if you do not believe that only white men should control the government, then you—to some degree—believe in a living Constitution. Interpreting the Constitution as living certainly offers solutions to today’s most pressing issues: promoting the general welfare for “our Posterity” likely means ensuring the general survival of our species—mandating immediate action against climate change (a recent IPCC report suggests we have 12 years to act on climate change before it threatens millions of lives). Establishing justice probably implies executing a criminal justice system that does not disproportionately attack one race, as ours currently does (for instance, African-Americans represented just over 10% of illicit drug use, yet also represented over a third of all drug arrests).  Through a living interpretation of our Constitution—built on its deliberate vagueness—it certainly is equipped to face the challenges of the 21st Century.

Who’s Responsible for Solving the Opioid Crisis?

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

The opioid crisis unequivocally threatens the general welfare of the United States of America. In 2016, the opioid crisis single handedly caused more American fatalities than the entire Vietnam War. Regardless of whether the Constitution is interpreted through an originalist lens or as a living document, both readings seem to support the notion that Congress is delegated the powers to “lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts, and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common defense and general Welfare of the United States. When viewed through the definition of welfare—“the health, happiness, and fortunes of a person or group,” it becomes abundantly clear that the opioid crisis is violating the general welfare of thousands of American citizens. When tens of thousands of Americans are dying annually from an opioid epidemic that is only worsening, Congress must adhere to the Constitution and provide for the general welfare of the American people.

Admittedly, there is no overt enumerated power that explicitly gives the federal government power to remedy a drug crisis, yet, even so, the Constitutional support remains particularly compelling for as to why the federal government has a Constitutional mandate to help remedy the Opioid crisis. The general welfare clause seems especially noteworthy when coupled with the Supremacy clause, which states “this Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land.” Put simply, the Opioid Crisis is threatening the literal, physical (and thereby general) welfare of Americans. Therefore, Congress (supported with the Supremacy Clause’s power over state laws) carries the burden of solving the Opioid Crisis. Moreover, given the alarming number of pharmaceuticals that are imported internationally or between states, the Commerce Clause further delegates the federal government power in fixing the Opioid Crisis. The Commerce Clause explicitly gives Congress the power “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes.” Barring the antiquated Indian Tribes phrase, the Opioid Crisis pertains to both interstate trade and trade between foreign nations. Pharmaceutical companies distribute opioids between states, and numerous amounts of synthetic opioids (which are quickly gaining popularity) come from countries such as China. Thus, the Commerce Clause also gives the federal government an obligation to remedy the ongoing opioid crisis.

Yet some, such as Real Clear Health’s Earl Baker, argue that the states are complicit in fixing the Opioid Crisis. Baker, in his article “The States Need to Step Up to Opioid Crisis,” calls for concurrent coordination between the state and federal government to remedy the Opioid epidemic. From Real Clear Health, an expert source for health-related issues, Baker explains how the states are not being vigilant enough in fighting the Opioid Crisis. He acknowledges that there must be coordination between the state and federal governments but seemingly suggests the states ought to orchestrate both the preventative and treatment efforts. In today’s world of intertwined, cooperative federalism, suggesting that the state government works alongside the federal one is far from an unreasonable or radical proposal. However, the real issue in Baker’s analysis lies in the fact that he largely places the responsibility of solving the Opioid crisis on the state governments and local communities. For instance, he unapologetically argues, “It’s time for the states to step up in the critical fight against opioids with more than just rhetoric.” In doing so, Baker misguidedly places the responsibility of a solution on the states. Sure, the states do in fact have a better idea of their communities’ specific needs. But the states cannot raise the funds necessary to solve their respective crises in a politically viable manner. The Federal Government must, at the very least, designate categorical grants to the states in order to ensure that states can afford to enact meaningful, reactive, and preventative reforms.

However, as previously mentioned, a reasonable reading of the Constitution implies that the Federal Government should be more involved in solving the Opioid crisis than just granting funds. Congress, to effectively fulfill their Constitutional duty of promoting general welfare, must put aside petty partisanship to legislate solving the Opioid epidemic with the interdisciplinary, multifaceted solutions it demands. They must consider the roles of pharmaceutical companies, doctors, foreign powers, and the black market in creating and exacerbating the Opioid Crisis. There simply is no quick and easy fix to such a widespread, devastating crisis.

As the Editorial Board of The New York Times say in “An Opioid Crisis Foretold,” legislators would be wise to treat the Opioid epidemic as a “complex, multidimensional problem.” The article uses historical events—ranging from China’s Opium Wars to the AIDS crisis—to evaluate how America should proceed in dealing with its newest drug epidemic. Comparing today’s Opioid Crisis with the fairly recent AIDS crisis, the Editorial Board recommends that Congress funds “prevention, treatment, support services, and research.”  Further supporting the Constitutional interpretation that the federal government must play a hand in solving the Opioid Crisis, the article calls for “stronger leadership” from the federal government.  Thus far, almost all of the funding designated to the Opioid Crisis has been spent on reactionary treatment services.  Although adequate funding for treatment is incredibly important, the already worsening Opioid Crisis seems likely to only become more devastating if Congress does not attack its root causes.  

Failing to respond to the deaths of thousands of Americans annually—a clear violation of the public’s general welfare—is an abdication of Congress’s Constitutionally-outlined duties. The federal government, working alongside state and local governments, must take charge in preventing the growth of the Opioid crisis, treating its victims, and funding research to best understand the causes and effects of this devastating epidemic.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards




Jamal Khashoggi’s Death Should Not Be in Vain

in Foreign Policy/Political Issues by

The United States must retaliate against Saudi Arabia for their role in murdering Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi, a longtime journalist for The Washington Post, seems to have been murdered for his criticism of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Saudis claim that they have no knowledge of Mr. Khashoggi’s fate. However, nearly all of the evidence points to the contrary. Khashoggi was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Islamabad, where he was reportedly dismembered. Turkish officials have concluded that the “highest levels of the Royal Court” in Saudi Arabia ordered his murder. They report that a fifteen-person team (including some government officials) used a bonesaw to dismember Khashoggi. Yet, Saudi Arabia maintains that the fifteen men—who were in Turkey for less than 24 hours and flew in on a charter plane—were in Turkey for tourism. How often do tourists arrive on a charter plane (from a company that Saudis have previously used for government contracting work) and promptly depart at 3:13 AM? And how often do tourists bring a bone saw on their vacation? The evidence plainly and overwhelmingly suggests that this was the preemptive, orchestrated murder of a member of the free press.

Khashoggi (rightfully) was critical of Mohammed bin Salman in his articles, failing to shower him with praise for his “progressivism.” Ironically, Khashoggi’s murder exposes the superficiality of Mohammed bin Salman and his policies. Although he loves to pose as a more level-minded progressive, Mohammed bin Salman resorts to the same murderous tactics as his father and other similar autocrats when confronted with adversity–even from the press. Of course, now the US must determine how to respond to Saudi Arabia. In DC, there have been bipartisan support for swift retaliation if these allegations are true. Marco Rubio, for instance, promised “a very strong Congressional response” if the Trump administration does not do anything. Unfortunately, Marco Rubio has a history of not keeping promises, particularly when they require him to break with the President. Regardless, Rubio is right in thinking that a failure to respond to this murder would cost America immeasurable moral standing. If the US does not stand up for journalists—particularly the ones that work for American organizations—then the US would be realizing Trump’s image of the United States. Trump, while defending Putin (as he often does), was asked about Putin’s history of murdering journalists. Instead of denouncing Putin for his actions (as any sane person—much less President—would), Trump responded by saying, “What? Do you think our country’s so innocent?” If we did not respond to Khashoggi’s murder, we would indeed be complicit in the murder of journalists. We absolutely must respond and punish Saudi Arabia for their crimes. First, we need to cancel the impending arms deal with Saudi Arabia. This is a win-win; not only are we punishing them for murdering Khashoggi, but we’d also be encumbering the Saudi’s ability to wreak havoc on the Yemeni people. Second, we should do anything in our power to disrupt Saudi Arabia’s upcoming business conference—including withdrawing Sec. of Treasury Steve Mnuchin from the conference. The Trump administration needs to distance themselves from the Saudis. Finally, the US needs to put economic sanctions on Saudi oil. Although the Saudis could retaliate and temporarily drive up prices, doing so would be committing economic suicide for the Saudis, as well-analyzed by this New York Times article.

At first glance, it would seem that proponents of not sanctioning Saudi Arabia may be correct in thinking that the Saudi threat of raising oil prices is threatening to our economy. However, when evaluating that threat, we must consider two things: i) would the Saudis actually drive up their prices, as they claim they will? and ii) how would that affect our economy?

All signs seem to suggest that the Saudi’s threats are empty. If they drove up the price, they would shatter the reputation they’ve built over the past 45 years as a stable, reliable provider. American oil production since 2007 has doubled, making us nearly sustainable. Moreover, of the 800,000 daily barrels of oil we import from Saudi Arabia, many of those barrels go to support Saudi Aramco, the Saudi-owned refinery in the Gulf of Mexico. Cutting off oil trade to the US would cause irreparable damage to the Saudi Arabian economy—something that Mohammed bin Salman (who is solely focused on growing the Saudi economy and reputation) would not risk. In short, if the Saudis retaliate to sanctions by increasing oil prices, it would permanently and irreparably damage its economy and global reputation. Furthermore, although driving up oil prices would admittedly have a some temporary effect on the US economy, we could certainly turn to other countries and ourselves to replace Saudi oil. In fact, experts predict it would end up significantly helping our economy in the long run. The thinking that suggests the US is reliant on Saudi Arabia is outdated and inaccurate.

The barbaric murder of Jamal Khashoggi, an attack on America’s free press, demands a swift response. We can NOT turn a blind eye to our country’s principles because of the mere risk of a hiccup in our economy. There is no price worth sacrificing America’s ideals and morality. Khashoggi’s brutal death has prompted legislators from ALL sides of the political spectrum to reexamine US/Saudi relations. A growing number of Congressmen are beginning to acknowledge our part in exacerbating the horrific Yemen Humanitarian Crisis. We now face a choice as a Nation. We can ignore the inhuman murder of an American resident, succumbing to the fear that the Saudis might retaliate against us. Or, we can adhere to the ideals our nation supposedly values most—human rights, freedom of the press, and basic safeties—and retaliate against Saudi Arabia.

The US is supposed to serve as a beacon of moral leadership to other countries. Our unresponsiveness to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, coupled with our role in enabling the deaths of thousands of Yemeni civilians, is a shameful abdication of that responsibility.

Of course, following this presidency has trained me to expect the worst, and then lower those expectations. Donald Trump likely won’t put sanctions on Saudi Arabia, and Republicans in Congress will probably not defy his agenda. As a matter of fact, Trump has said he likes the Saudis because “they buy apartments from [him].” However, if you feel strongly that there must be a check on the President’s worst impulses, then go vote (and make your friends and family vote) for people who are not afraid to check his worst impulses, unlike the current Congress.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards


Why I’m Supporting Lizzie Pannill Fletcher For U.S. Congress

in Contemporary Politics/Miscellaneous by

The other day, while at a Lizzie Fletcher campaign event, I heard someone ask a very interesting question: “What makes Houston different?” It’s a question I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about—and the answer to that is ultimately what convinced me to support Lizzie Fletcher for Congress.  I believe, ultimately, Houston’s people distinguish it from just about any other place in the world. Our people, in many ways, are largely divided. Politically, socially, and linguistically, Houston’s community is a heterogeneous blend of cultures. Yet this is true of a lot of places. However, what sets Houston apart is how these differences enrich and strengthen our community. We’re approaching the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey, but its effects still linger: as we continue to recover from the storm, I still feel that sense of unity—despite our differences—remains pervasive in Houston. Harvey highlighted the mindset of a Houstonian pretty directly; it’s one that treats people with dignity regardless of the color of their skin, how they vote, or what language they speak. That attitude makes Houston different.  And this election is different.

This election is about more than voting Republican or Democrat. This election is about more than signaling a referendum on President Trump. This election is about Houston, our city, and the values it wants to convey to the rest of the country—because Houston has a storied history of leading the country. Our unparalleled doctors and nurses in the medical center lead America’s medical community. Our ingenious scientists at NASA lead the world in space exploration. Our city, made up of people from all different backgrounds, leads the country in diversity. We deserve a leader who can reflect the needs and values of our city instead of those of a political party. We deserve a leader who can bring Houston’s spirit of leadership to Washington DC. We deserve a leader who is not afraid to vote to protect our children from being shot at their schools. We deserve a leader who is willing to listen to the scientists who warn a that worse version of Hurricane Harvey could hit Houston if we do not address global warming. We deserve a leader that’s for Houston.

Instead, we have a representative who shows us again and again that he stands with his party before his city. Representative Culberson voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act—choosing to stand with his party instead of the thousands of Houstonians who rely on that bill for quality healthcare. Culberson’s record raises important questions. Why does our representative vote nearly 100% of the time with a President who our district voted against? Why does the elected official of the most diverse city in America have an F from the American Civil Liberties Union but an A from the NRA? Congressman Culberson has consistently used his seat in Congress to benefit his party instead of his constituency. It’s time to elect a congresswoman that will serve Houstonnot a political party.

Lizzie Fletcher will serve Houston before her party. It’s all in her catchphrase: “We need a little more Houston in Washington D.C.”

Standing Up for Colin Kaepernick

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

When Colin Kaepernick knelt during the National Anthem to raise awareness for the “[oppression of] black people and people of color” in 2016, his protest elicited instantaneous backlash. Dubbed spoiled, selfish, and anti-American, Kaepernick felt the ramifications of his protest immediately: he was shortly benched for the remainder of the season and has not returned to the field since the season of his protests. The fervor of the backlash to his protests raged from talk show hosts to congressmen to, unsurprisingly, President Trump

For instance, consider the prominent Fox News host Jeanine Pirro’s reaction to Kaepernick’s protests. She questions whether “we have the fortitude, courage, and determination to stand up to those who threaten our values” in the context of the NFL protests. Her ominous inquisition begs a few questions: What values, exactly, does Pirro see threatened by Kaepernick’s protests? To whom is she referring with the collective pronoun ‘we’? The answer, sadly, has little to do with Kaepernick or his protest. Pirro knowingly implies that black people are “threatening” the status quo—which oftentimes favors white people above minorities. At its crux, the protests are rooted in seemingly non-controversial ideas (the idea that black people should be treated justly should not outrage anyone); however, the fact that they are coming from black Americans rather than white ones provokes widespread backlash and “threaten our values” —referring to the values of white Americans.  The backlash to the protests reveal a dark truth about America: white people still control most of the power and influence in this country, and they do not intend to cede their power. Pirro’s intimations are reminiscent of the ominous “you will not replace us” language of the Charlottesville’s white supremacist riots. Perhaps more troublingly, President Donald Trump recently describes his personal utopia as a fantasy world where NFL owners would say to protesting athletes, “Get that son of a b*tch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired!” There is nothing anti-American about expressing an opinion; however, using the presidency to silence an opinion runs counter to the most fundamental of American values. Unfortunately, Trump and Pirro are not anomalous exceptions in their reactions; they are part of a systemic pattern against challenges to the status quo, which, ironically, is exactly what the football players are protesting.

Kaepernick’s protests proved effective — Google reports Kaepernick was within the Top 10 most searched athletes of 2016, an especially difficult feat to achieve during an Olympics year.  Eventually, Kaepernick’s movement spread across the NFL — players and teams across the league unified in an attempt to use their platform to raise awareness to the largely ignored or underemphasized issue of the unfair treatment of black Americans, ranging from the police shootings of innocent black people to the flawed criminal justice system that puts black Americans at a significant disadvantage. His reputation tarnished and his career effectively over, Kaepernick incited further controversy when he was unveiled as the face of Nike’s newest advertisement campaign. While many praised Nike and the ad, others burned their Nike shoes and made #BoycottNike trend on Twitter.

Shortly after the announcement of Kaepernick as the face of their ad campaign, Nike released a video, narrated by and starring Kaepernick, which features numerous young athletes who have pursued their athletic dreams—often overcoming rough beginnings or physical disabilities to do so. In fact, Kaepernick is the only prominent person featured in the ad who is not featured demonstrating his athleticism. Rather, Kaepernick, once a starting NFL quarterback, now walks alone through a city, while the buildings behind him project the successes of the other athletes from the video—a woman wearing a Nike hijab, a refugee who played soccer in the world cup, a young Serena Williams, alongside others. The symbolism is powerful: Kaepernick, instead of quarterbacking, is ushering in a more diverse, inclusive sporting world.

Colin Kaepernick—like all other people—is not perfect. Perhaps he did not sacrifice everything in his protests. Perhaps he has used the traction from the movement he created to fill his pockets. Perhaps he did turn down an offer to play as a backup quarterback. Maybe not. But what he has done—and what SPEC so tirelessly strives to do—is start a conversation. Kaepernick, if nothing else, has sparked a movement that has challenged people to thoughtfully examine the treatment of black people. People often talk about the merits of sparking a conversation or protesting civilly. Kaepernick just did it.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards







Honoring McCain’s Legacy

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

“I can’t trust Obama. I have read about him and he’s not, um, he’s an Arab. He’s not—”

John McCain, his often stoic face failing to conceal his disappointment, snatched the microphone from the woman wearing a McCain/Palin ‘08 shirt, cutting her off before she could finish her thought. “No ma’am. He’s a decent family man and citizen that just I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that’s what the campaign’s all about,” McCain responded, much to the confusion of the woman who asked him the overtly racist question.

How America’s political landscape transformed from this type of respectful discourse to electing a President who famously claimed that Obama wasn’t born in United States remains one of modern history’s greatest mysteries. John McCain lived a life of service to America and its ideals. In his passing, America lost one of her most devout believers. His life was not in service to a political party or President; rather, he served a nation and its values.

Time and time again did McCain’s actions highlight his—and his country’s—greatest virtues. Enduring unimaginable torture as a prisoner of war, aviator John McCain repeatedly refused freedom from his prison unless his men could return alongside him. Campaigning against then Senator Barack Obama, Presidential Nominee John McCain refused to succumb to the cheap, petty insults and name-calling that plagues American politics today. Representing his Arizonan Constituents in the Senate, Senator (and deciding vote) John McCain, broke with his party and rejected a bill that would have stripped 391,000 Arizonans of their health insurance.

John McCain embodied the bipartisan approach to politics that SPEC strives to achieve. His actions repeatedly placed civil discourse and bipartisanship above polarization and partisanship. He worked tirelessly to help America reach her fullest potential. History will undoubtedly remember and honor his life of service to America—even if the President will not.  

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards


The Opioid Wars

in Contemporary Politics/Foreign Policy/Political Issues by

The Opioid Crisis killed 64,000 Americans in 2016, causing more American casualties than the Vietnam War in its entirety. Although the American deaths during the Vietnam War sparked an unprecedented amount of media coverage and civic engagement, the more deadly Opioid Crisis receives significantly less coverage than the Vietnam War once did. Historians lack a consensus on the cause and severity of the Opioid Crisis. Many experts attribute the epidemic to pharmaceutical corruption, medical malpractice, or a larger problem with America’s drug culture. While all of these factors certainly contribute to America’s Opioid Epidemic, many seem to overlook China’s role in exacerbating, and possibly causing, the Opioid Crisis.  China, learning from their own troubled history with opium, is intentionally exacerbating America’s current opioid crisis to undermine America’s economy and, by extension, its global leadership position.

China aggravates America’s opioid crisis through its prodigious exports of fentanyl. By examining the effects of fentanyl compared to other addictive drugs, the dangers of the relatively new synthetic painkiller become abundantly clear. Fentanyl, for instance, is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin. A mere 2 milligrams of fentanyl, furthermore, constitutes a lethal dosage.  The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) reports that one kilogram of fentanyl can be purchased in China for only $3,000-$5,000, which can earn upwards of $1.5 million on the illicit drug market. The DEA, additionally, reports that China is responsible for “the vast majority” of the fentanyl manufacturing. China unquestionably is the root source of fentanyl imports into the United States; the extent of the Chinese government’s knowledge and support of the fentanyl manufacturers, however, is less clear. On the surface, the Chinese government appears to be combating these producers, often outlawing the exports of specific types of fentanyl. These policies, while nominally assuring, actually allow manufacturers to make miniscule changes to the fentanyl’s chemical makeup before continuing to export it. Chinese fentanyl, moreover, is readily accessible on both the dark web and Google. Within a few clicks, nearly anyone can ensure the expedient delivery of illicit opioids. China’s chemical regulations, particularly regarding exports, are notoriously loose; China’s domestic tolerance for drugs, counterintuitively, is unbelievably strict. Chinese drug dealers, for example, are publicly sentenced to death in filled sports arenas before being taken away and executed. The disparity between China’s domestic intolerance for drugs in its own country and its leniency for helping facilitate America’s opioid crisis certainly raises alarming questions. A 2017 report from The US-China Economic Security and Review Commission concludes that Chinese authorities “place little emphasis on controlling [fentanyl’s] production and export.” China’s government, historically, has been closely involved in its industrial pursuits. As of 2007, 45% of China’s non-agricultural GDP were controlled by either state-owned enterprises or state-holding enterprises. The notion, proposed by Chinese leaders, that the Chinese government has no means to prevent the production of Fentanyl is absolutely spurious.  China, at best, is deliberately allowing opioids to freely flow into America. At worst, China is actively exacerbating America’s Opioid epidemic.

China, remembering how its own opium struggles crippled the nation, has launched a similar attack on the US in hopes that the fentanyl will have a comparable effect on the country.  Western traders, primarily British, had profited from smuggling opium into the empire of China’s Qing Dynasty since the 18th century. The smuggling significantly intensified, however, in the early 1800s. While opium had been used in Chinese medical practices for roughly a thousand years, between 6 and 12 million Chinese were opium addicts by 1840.  Britain, essentially, used opium as a means to retard the Chinese economy. China, attempting to address its opium crisis, intensely suppressed the opium trade by destroying thousands of crates of opium and blockading the Pearl River estuary, a prominent Chinese trading port. The superior British forces deftly invaded China, launching several victorious military campaigns in the span of two years. The overpowered Chinese capitulated to the British, signing the Treaty of Nanjing, an unequal treaty that gave the British unchecked control over the Chinese economy. Opium, eventually legalized in China by the British, continued to flow into China, addicting millions more. Left with a crippled economy and an addicted populace, China spiraled into a self-proclaimed “century of humiliation.” China, during the following century, struggled to overcome a seemingly insurmountable addiction crisis. Given China’s long history with drug epidemics, China appears to be mirroring Britain’s smuggling tactics in the US right now. Using drug cartels and the dark web rather than merchants and ships, China is actively infiltrating the US with fentanyl in hopes of recreating the destabilizing effect that opium had on China in the US.

China aspires to destabilize the US because, ultimately, it wants to be the foremost global power. Xi Jinping, China’s president, plans to resist American policies that seek to “contain [China’s] rise.” Chinese analysts claim that Jinping plans to “step into the vacuum [the US] leaves behind.” In fact, The New York Times reports that Jinping will pursue his agenda even if it risks “triggering a new Cold War.” China evidently views the US as a waning superpower, and Jinping appears eager to expedite its decline. By aggravating America’s ongoing opioid epidemic, China seeks to eclipse America’s status as the leading international superpower. The Centre for Research on Globalization reports that China aspires to gain “global leadership” through economic means rather than war and conquest. The only country with a more robust economy than China’s is the United States. The only way to satiate China’s global economic ambitions, therefore, is for the US to lose its international leadership position. If China yearns to be the global economic leader then perhaps its fentanyl exports serve to undermine the American economy exactly how Britain’s opium crippled the Chinese economy. Jinping’s policies, furthermore, have included sizable investments in technological research and development, solar and wind energy, and advanced medical products. As justification for all of these investments, Jinping bluntly states that he wants China to be “a new choice for other countries.” While Jinping’s policies are positioning China to take the reins of global power in the event of an American vacuum on the global stage, China’s fentanyl exports are aiding the US in creating that vacuum.

America’s Opioid Epidemic certainly embodies an underlying competition for global control between the US and China. While America’s Opioid Crisis has already killed hundreds of thousands and addicted millions, those numbers could potentially pale in comparison to the casualties of “a new Cold War” between the US and China. Reliving the tensions of the original Cold War with 21st Century technologies—such as nuclear weapons 3,000 times as powerful as the ones used at Hiroshima—seems particularly dangerous. China, somewhat miraculously, overcame their own opium addictions largely through state-sponsored rehabilitation centers. If China is drawing inspiration from the western history playbook to exacerbate America’s Opioid Epidemic then perhaps the US, ironically, can look at China’s history to solve its Opioid Crisis.  

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
Product of Errant Publishing Co.


A One-Woman Show: Sarah Huckabee in The White House Press Briefing

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

Perhaps the most simultaneously intriguing and horrifying cultural phenomenon this year was not a movie, television show, or play but rather the theatrical absurdity of our political system.

Indeed, the unprecedented political landscape of President Trump’s administration has created scenarios more outlandish than the most far-fetched episode of Veep, more tense than any episode of 24, and more cringeworthy than the most awkward moments of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Filled with more morally ambiguous characters than Game of Thrones and more unforeseen twists than Survivor, the Trump Administration has truly been a terrifying, riveting narrative. However, while the aforementioned shows are ultimately designed to entertain, Mr. Trump’s administration is all too real.

Throughout this chaotic news cycle, one woman has distinguished herself as a particularly notable character: Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Ms. Sanders stars in a one-woman show nearly every day, performing to an audience of journalists in her White House Press Briefings.  And to be clear, her briefings are theater —  Ms. Sanders spends her briefings articulating her spurious lines, which consist of intentionally misleading “alternative facts.”

This is not to say that Ms. Sanders is a poor performer — she’s not. In fact, she drastically outshines her predecessor, Sean Spicer, by adding an unfazed temperament to her performance that he lacked. Whereas Mr. Spicer seemed to show some semblance of remorse for intentionally misinforming the American people, Ms. Sanders brings an unperturbed facade to her performance that Mr. Spicer could not seem to muster.

Undoubtedly, one of the highlights of her show is her improvisation segments. Ms. Sanders allows select audience members to ask her questions, which she impressively manages to evade, spin, and twist. Her control over her stage (and her audience) is nearly unparalleled in contemporary theater.

For example, in one of Ms. Sanders’ first shows, TIME Magazine White House correspondent Zeke Miller asked whether the White House transition was “chaotic.” Without missing a beat, Ms. Sanders assuredly replied, “No, I don’t see it as chaotic.” As Mr. Miller tried to rephrase his question, Ms. Sanders joked, “You want to see chaos, Zeke, you should come to my house early in the morning when my three kids are running around.  That’s chaos.” As laughter erupted in the audience, Ms. Sanders immediately transitioned to the next question, effectively ending Mr. Miller’s line of interrogation. This impressive, deliberate control over her audience allows her to inculcate her message clearly and without opposition.

Ms. Sanders’ emotional temperament, her finely-tuned control over her expressions and inflection, allows her to be one of the most effective and remarkable actresses in theater this year. Unfortunately for us, her show is non-fiction.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
Product of Errant Publishing Co.

Stormy Times at the Trump White House

in Contemporary Politics/Political Issues by

Arguably the leader of the free world and certainly the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump now faces an alleged affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels. In a recent 60 Minutes segment, Stormy recounts in excruciating and humiliating detail her version of their affair. She describes spanking him with a rolled up Trump Magazine; she describes how Trump said she “reminds him of my daughter;” she describes feeling no attraction towards him as they had sex; she describes rejecting his advances after watching four hours of Shark Week; she describes being physically threatened by a goon to “leave Trump alone” and “forget the story.”

Trump, notably, hasn’t responded to Stormy’s allegations on Twitter (where he’s notoriously outspoken). In fact, the President’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, initiated arbitration proceedings against Stormy only for violating her NDA (non-disclosure agreement) — not for libel or defamation. Only the current (but subject to change) White House Press Secretary has denied the affair on Trump’s behalf. Trump’s silence regarding Stormy starkly juxtaposes with his typically unabashed spirit.

Unfortunately, the fact that this story even exists speaks to the dire status of our current political climate. Can anyone honestly argue that this scandal is in the least bit surprising?  If anyone thought that Donald Trump was any sort of moral exemplar during the campaign, they were likely not paying close attention. Trump’s innumerable flaws and scandals, however, seem to blunt the effect of any particular one.

Perhaps Stormy’s case is different.

The Stormy Daniels’ scandal perfectly suits our reality TV star President. Infused with sex, money, crime, broken promises, and threats of violence, the affair reads more like a reality TV show than a presidential controversy. Filled with Clickbait, FAKE NEWS, and eye-catching headlines, perhaps Stormy’s more Hollywood-esque controversy will linger in headlines longer than Trump’s countless other scandals. Stormy’s affair may not be Trump’s most egregious scandal, but it’s certainly his most fitting and entertaining one: Trumpian times call for Trumpian measures.

Ultimately, Trump’s porn star affair just further degrades the Office of the Presidency, embarrassing the US internally and internationally. Meanwhile, Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues to methodically investigate the possible crimes of the President and his affiliates. As the Mueller investigation escalates, any truth behind the Trump/Russia collusion accusations seems more likely to emerge.  Stormy Daniels may have captivated the public’s attention, but Robert Mueller is bringing the real storm to the White House.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
Product of Errant Publishing Co.

Shooting Down Anti-Gun Control Arguments

in Contemporary Politics/Gun Control/Political Issues by

After another tragic yet increasingly unsurprising school shooting in Parkland, FL, I felt compelled to write a few of my responses to common arguments against increased gun control. If you would like to continue the discussion, feel free to write a response in the comments or submit a response article into the Contact Us Page.

Pro Gun Argument #1: Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People.

This is technically true. Just like any inanimate object (such as a bomb or toxic gas), the gun is not acting as its own living entity. However, guns make it much easier for one person to kill numerous people, as seen by America’s frequent, tragic mass shootings. When looking at gun ownership percentage vs. gun deaths on a state-by-state and country-by-country level, there seems to be one irrefutable conclusion: more gun ownership in a place typically catalyzes more gun related deaths.

Pro Gun Argument #2: Gun Control Laws won’t prevent bad people from obtaining guns.

Laws serve as a way to disincentivize people from doing bad things. Heroin, for example, is illegal in the United States. However, people in America still do heroin. Thus, should we legalize heroin? Of course not! We do not structure our laws around how criminals will react to them. Although stricter gun control laws will not completely stop bad people from getting guns, we must not let the perfect get in the way of the good, especially when the stakes are so high. America’s children are counting on Congress to pass any legislation as an attempt to stop them from being massacred at school. After enduring 13 mass shootings, Australia implemented strict gun control laws. There has not been a mass shooting in Australia in over twenty years. Clearly, Gun Control can help in some capacity.

Pro Gun Argument #3: If more good citizens carried guns then we wouldn’t have to worry about mass shootings.

Once again, I would point to the well-established fact that more guns cause more gun related deaths. In the recent Vegas shooting, the shooted slaughtered 59 people at a concert from a building over 1000 feet away. Imagine if everyone in that crowd had been carrying a gun. In the chaos and madness, good people would have inevitably shot at each other, mistaking other people for the killer. This would have exacerbated the death count unimaginably. Or, perhaps some of the crowd would shoot at the building, potentially hitting innocent hotel residents. More guns would have been the very worst possible thing in that scenario — and it would have significantly complicated the jobs of the police officers.

Pro Gun Argument #4: The 2nd Amendment

The 2nd Amendment of the Constitution certainly states that individuals have the right to bear arms. Similarly, the Constitution also plainly states that slaves and those bound to service counted as “three-fifths of all other persons.” The Constitution is far from perfect, and glorifying its words as such actually betrays the intentions of the Founding Fathers. Our Founding Fathers, whom the NRA loves to cite as prime examples of gun advocates, frequently challenged the Constitution. In reference to the Constitution, Alexander Hamilton claimed that he would never expect “perfect work from imperfect man.” The Founding Fathers anticipated that America’s issues would evolve beyond those addressed in the Constitution. In fact, Thomas Jefferson proposed that the Constitution should expire and be rewritten by each generation to ensure each generation helped shape the government. If the Constitution was re-drafted today, stricter gun control would almost definitely be included in it — a recent poll found 97% of people support increased gun control measures.

The 2nd Amendment, moreover, is not a carte blanche for citizens to own whatever types of weapons they’d like. Just as citizens are not allowed to own fully automatic machine guns (in almost all cases) or nuclear weapons (in ALL cases), there must be clear restrictions on the types of weapons people should be allowed to own. There is a clear distinction between hunting weapons and assault (n. a physical attack; v. make a physical attack on) rifles. As the definition of ‘assault’ suggests, an assault rifle is not a defensive weapon. Seemingly, the most practical use for an assault weapon is, as the name suggests, an assault. The most memorable mass shootings of recent history share a common denominator: the AR-15. That was the gun that killed 17 students and faculty members in a span of three minutes last week at a school in Parkland, FL, That was the gun that mowed down innocent concert-goers at a Vegas music festival, killing 59 and injuring 100s. That was the gun that killed 20 first-graders and six teachers in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.

Every single American child deserves to go to school without a fear of being gunned down during class. While I am certainly not suggesting that Congress bans all guns, Congress should be able to drastically limit the accessibility of assault weapons and guns in general. Hopefully, congressmen can give their votes to preventing gun violence so that they don’t have to give their thoughts and prayers.

Graphic Design by Jackson Edwards
Product of Errant Publishing Co.
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